Let's not fool ourselves: Sunday's loss to the Detroit Lions wasn't the best effort we've seen from the Green Bay Packers in recent memory.
Aaron Rodgers went down, the running game was a non-factor and the defense could definitely use a few touch-ups.
With the Packers on the verge of missing the playoffs, this game becomes a must-win for Green Bay.
All signs are pointing to a blowout in New England this Sunday night, as Tom Brady and the 11-2 Patriots look to continue their utter dominance against top-notch opponents.
With their backs against the wall and their season hanging in the balance, how will the Packers respond to the pressure they're about to face?
Here are my five bold predictions for Sunday night's battle.
New England has averaged a league-best 33 points per game at home—and with Tom Brady at the helm, that doesn't look to change.
In those six home games, the Patriots have beaten the likes of Cincinnati, Buffalo, Baltimore, Minnesota, Indianapolis and Rex Ryan's New York Jets. Each of those teams, amazingly enough, have given up a combined average of 326 total yards per game— which would be good enough for 11th-best in the entire NFL.
The Patriots have faced some of the top offenses in the entire league at home this season, and have managed to outscore their opponents 33-21 at home this year. Scary stuff, without question.
The Packers, on the other hand, are 3-4 on the road this season. However, Green Bay has actually kept their opponents in check, outscoring the opposition 117 to 86 on the road.
Green Bay's 10th-ranked overall defense will have their work cut out for them this week in practice, as they attempt to slow down the New England freight train guided by Bill Belichik.
The Packers rank third in the league in interceptions (18), and New England ranks second in the league interception give-aways (5). Something's got to give, right? Exactly.
With All-Pros Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson more than likely guarding Wes Welker and Deion Branch, the Packers will have the upper hand in the pure talent department. With the addition of rain and snow showers, the passing game of the Patriots will be limited as well.
Matchup to watch: Tom Brady vs. Charles Woodson
The league's MVP leader countering the leauge's most dominant cornerback over the last 10 years. If that isn't entertainment, then I don't know what is.
Since Packers' quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been severly limited in practices this week, it looks like back-up Matt Flynn will take the reigns of Mike McCarthy's offense.
In his first meaningful game as a professional quarterback, the LSU alum threw for 177 yards and one interception against the league's 13th-best pass defense.
New England's pass defense is currently ranked second to last in the NFL, giving up 266.2 yards per game, which obviously shows a clear contrast between the two squads.
Matchup to watch: Matt Flynn vs. pressure situations
Last week's contest in Detroit yielded a clear feature to Flynn's game: his resiliency as a pocket passer under pressure.
From what was noticeable, Flynn came into last Sunday's game with a few minutes to spare in the first half, only to consistently make decent throws to his receivers. And although Flynn's statistics will appear misleading, his poise in the pocket impressed a majority of his doubters.
With Patriots' all-pro cornerback Devin McCourty more than likely limiting Greg Jennings from deep passes, Flynn will be limited to check-downs or quick-slants to Donald Driver, Andrew Quarless, James Jones and Jordy Nelson. Running backs James Starks and Brandon Jackson will be open to screen opportunities for Flynn as well.
At this point in Flynn's career, screen-plays may turn out to be the best chance for success.
Let's not forget Flynn leading LSU to the national championship back in 2007. The guy knows pressure first-hand, ladies and gentlemen.
If there was ever a time to start running the football with purpose, Sunday is it.
After an impressive outing two Sundays ago against the 49ers (a game in which the Packers' running backs amassed 99 rushing yards combined), Green Bay only further demonstrated the need for a ground attack against the Lions.
This week, against the 14th-ranked rushing defense of the Patriots, Green Bay will take to the ground and hopefully give James Starks and Brandon Jackson opportunities to succeed.
If the ground game can get things rolling, Aaron Rodgers/Matt Flynn will be able to subtly attack the weak New England secondary.
With only three games left and seemingly nothing to lose, look for Mike McCarthy to rely on the ground attack more than ever.
If the Packers can manage to execute the offensive blocking schemes that have created a great deal of anxiety this season, I think the Packers have as much a chance to win as New England.
The key, however, is actually stepping up and accomplishing the game plan—something that has been a problem for Green Bay, especially of late.
Matchup to watch: James Starks vs. Jerod Mayo
Green Bay's hopes for a running game against the Patriots' number one linebacker? Sounds like the most interesting matchup of all the storylines.
After three straight games of sheer dominance (393 yards, five touchdowns), Greg Jennings was due for a letdown.
Now that that the letdown is cleared from Jennings' mind, he is more than ready to bounce back from Sunday's woes—in considerable fashion.
Just four yards short of 1,000 yards on the season, Jennings is among the elite receivers in all of football. Additionally, New England's laughable secondary should provide a great chance for Jennings to regain his status among the Green Bay faithful.
With a plethora of untimely drops last Sunday in Detroit, there is only room for improvement among the Green Bay's receiving corps. There's simply too much talent for these "regressions" to continue.
Against a defensive unit that has given up 45 passes of twenty yards or more this season (inadequate enough to be 7th-worst in all of football), the Packers' "big five" formation of receivers is due for an offensive outburst.
Matchup to watch: Greg Jennings vs. himself
Uncharacteristic drops and miscues tainted Jennings on Sunday. How will the Packers' leading receiver recouperate after disappointing so many?
For the time being, Packers fans all across the nation are holding their collective breaths. Each and every snap begins to shape the rest of Green Bay's relatively short season from here on out.
What each snap brings, however, is another story.
But if there is one thing I can say with the utmost confidence, it is that the Packers will give every ounce of energy they've got left in the tank.
Whether that be committing to running the football, passing 75 percent of the time, or playing shutdown defense, there is much to be accomplished Sunday night.
Also lost in the drama: Green Bay's defense.
The Packers are now ranked third in the entire league in passing yards allowed per game (196.8). If that's not enough, how about the baffling 68.1 quarterback rating they've allowed to opposing quarterbacks per game—tops in the whole league.
Still, it's the Patriots. At home. In the snow. With Bill Belichik at the helm. This could get ugly.
In the Tom Brady era, the Patriots have a 60-11 record at home, including a 3:1 touchdown to interception ratio. Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams will have their work cut out for them.
Matchup to watch: Dom Capers vs. Bill Belichick
Arguably the most coveted of offensive geniuses pitted against one of the most influential defensive coordinators of the past five seasons. If there was one specific thing to look for, it has to be how Belichik adjusts his game plan through the air against the league's third best pass defense.
This matchup could (and will) be the deciding factor Sunday night.
Instead, the Packers find themselves in one of the worst positions they could've possibly put each other in. With three games to go, trailing the Bears by one game in the division hunt, Green Bay should (for all intensive purposes) be a long-shot to the playoffs.
But if there's one thing that the green and gold have managed to count on over the past few seasons, it's that there is always a shot at recovery.
Despite the injuries, penalties, and miscues that have transpired this year, the fact remains: the Packers remain in the conversation for the playoffs.
Packers fans have grown tired of the perpetual dependence on the everlasting "there's always next season" alibi.
Nevertheless, Sunday's game will (most likely) be both indicative of Green Bay's whole season, and a starting point for what is to come next year...
Packer fans should be ready for a duel with the sanctity that is the New England Patriots. Nothing will come easy for Mike McCarthy and company, that much is certain.
Dropping the proverbial ball last week against the Lions was absolutely inexcusable, and Sunday's matchup only looks to put the green and gold in more of a mess.
Should Green Bay come away with the victory Sunday night, they will have proved everyone wrong -- including myself. But the Packers unfortunately picked the wrong time to slow up.
Green Bay will give it all they've got—that much I am convinced.
Prediction: Green Bay 21, New England 30